May Note From the President and CEO — Under Attack: Facing a Federal Lawsuit Head-On
For every victory we achieve, the opposition becomes more ruthless and relentless.
So far in 2023, the movement and terminally ill advocates have made some remarkable progress. Most recently, in partnership with Patient Choices Vermont, we won a groundbreaking victory that makes Vermont’s medical aid-in-dying law accessible to eligible out-of-state residents. And weeks prior to that, in partnership with End of Life Choices Washington, we secured much-needed and long-overdue improvements to their Death with Dignity Act. Without question, we are gaining public support and momentum.
Unfortunately, for every victory we achieve, the opposition becomes more ruthless and relentless. While we have faced many challenges from the opposition, the most recent is one we have been anticipating — but it is concerning nevertheless.
On April 25, a consortium of highly sophisticated lawyers filed a federal lawsuit in the Central District of California requesting that the California law be immediately suspended and invalidated. Their case is based on outright and outrageous misrepresentations, but their strategy is alarmingly similar to the one U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch outlined in his book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, where he argues that state medical aid-in-dying laws are unconstitutional.
This lawsuit represents one of the strongest threats to medical aid-in-dying laws nationwide. If appealed, the case could eventually land in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. And we have watched as the high court’s majority of hard-line, anti-choice justices issue a growing list of precedent-reversing rulings based not on evidence but on ideology.
The litigants falsely claim that people with disabilities are in danger of having medical aid in dying imposed on them against their will — which is simply outlandish and has not been borne out by the data. Their assertion is entirely and blatantly false. The truth is:
Imposing medical aid in dying on anyone (aka, euthanasia) is expressly against the law in every state and jurisdiction in the United States.
Every medical aid-in-dying law includes multiple safeguards to ensure that no one can be coerced into using the option.
Having a disability does not qualify as a reason to request access to medical aid in dying.
To qualify for access, a person must be a decisionally capable adult, terminally ill with six months or less to live and able to self-ingest the medication.
While we recognize that people with disabilities experience systemic inequities and provider bias within the healthcare system every day, evidence from Disability Rights Oregon, the Journal of Medical Ethics and 25 years of practice clearly demonstrate that medical aid-in-dying laws protect vulnerable populations. We should not deny people the freedom to make decisions about their own healthcare because of unsubstantiated fears.
Compassion & Choices is thoroughly committed to fighting for the vast majority of Californians and people with disabilities — and the vast majority of Americans in every state — who overwhelmingly support the option of medical aid in dying.
Now is the time to balance the well-deserved joy over our victories with heightened vigilance, greater activism and stronger unity. It will take hard work and resilience — as it always has — but together we will continue to vanquish the opposition’s persistent attacks. We are on the side of individual freedom, respect and compassionate choices for all.